Clashes erupted between Turkey-backed rebels and militants in northwest Syria- near a planned buffer zone- on Friday, an activist group and a resident said.
The buffer zone, agreed last month between rebel backer Ankara and government ally Moscow, is meant to separate regime fighters from the myriad rebel and extremist forces of the Idlib region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting first began between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, led by former Al-Qaeda fighters, and Nour al-Din al-Zinki in the town of Kafr Halab.
HTS had reportedly been trying to arrest a local commander present in the town on the western edge of Aleppo province, near the administrative border with Idlib province.
‘Zinki sent reinforcements to the area, and the clashes expanded to several areas and the National Liberation Front joined in,’ observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman said.
The NLF is the main Turkey-backed rebel alliance in the Idlib region, but extremist heavyweight HTS holds most of the province.
Russia and Turkey agreed last month to set up a demilitarisation zone in Idlib that would be free of both heavy weapons and extremists.